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Wheeler scores shootout winner as Jets outlast Maple Leafs

Jets have earned five of a possible six points on the road trip so far

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

TORONTO - Mark Scheifele was still buzzing. Paul Maurice could barely speak.

Yes, the 4-3 shootout win the Winnipeg Jets (24-16-4) earned over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night had it all.

A shorthanded goal, big-time saves, a late goal to tie it, a wild overtime with chances at both ends, and an emphatic celebration from Jets captain Blake Wheeler to end it off after he beat Frederik Andersen for the game-winner.

"I saw on the first three guys that he was playing pretty deep in the net. I tried to show him a little bit of speed and back him off, then slow down on him," said Wheeler. "Our goalies tell us all the time, it's so hard when you're stopped on the goal line and you're trying to read what's coming next.

"That five-hole looked open, so I was able to sneak it through just quick enough."

Video: POSTGAME | Paul Maurice

The Jets had goals from Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Mason Appleton in regulation and held a 3-2 lead with under 20 seconds to go before Auston Matthews scored his second of the night - a one-timer from the point that went bar down on Connor Hellebuyck - to tie the game.

It could have been demoralizing for the Jets. Instead, it was fuel.

"If there's 15 minutes left on the clock you're worried about it more. It gets to overtime, every team in the league has enough talent they can put out there. Those guys are pretty excited about it," said Maurice. "You've got a point on the road, which is the saw off. Overtime seems to be fun for our team. It looks like they enjoy it."

The overtime was nearly indescribable. Winnipeg had a 2-on-0 turned aside by Andersen. Scheifele was stopped on a breakaway. Hellebuyck kept the Maple Leafs at bay, stopping two shots from Toronto followed by another two in the shootout.

In fact, Scheifele would have loved it to keep going.

"I'd be down for that. For sure," said Scheifele. "It was so fun. It was a great job by Bucky making those saves and it was good on us to get the win."

Wheeler, not so much.

"It's a lot of back and forth. You're skating 200 feet. It's more fun going toward their net than it is going back to yours," said Wheeler. "Luckily both goalies were on top of it in overtime. It's too bad we couldn't sneak one in there."

Video: POSTGAME | Blake Wheeler

Exactly four minutes into the opening period, the Jets got a break as Andersen took a tumble just outside his crease in an attempt to stop a puck rimmed around the boards. As he was trying to get back in the net, Ehlers fired a shot from the left-wing side boards and in to put the visitors on top.

That lead lasted 56 seconds as Matthews took a backhand pass from Mitch Marner in the right face-off circle and snapped home his 30th of the season to tie things up.

Winnipeg took the lead back while shorthanded, when Mason Appleton stole the puck from John Tavares in the neutral zone then won the foot race to get to the loose puck. He fought off the back-checking Toronto captain the whole way, then rifled a shot through Andersen.

It was Winnipeg's second consecutive game with a shorthanded goal.

"I was just trying to keep the puck in front of me and keep his hands away from mine. I did a good job of shielding it and used my reach to do so and found the back of the net," said Appleton.

"I thought we did a good job of pressuring when we needed to and tightening the box at other times."

Video: POSTGAME | Mason Appleton

Toronto tied the game shortly after a Jets power play expired six minutes into the second period. An errant pass from deep in the Maple Leafs' zone sent the home side in on a three-on-one that ended with Dmytro Timashov shovelling home a loose puck to make the score 2-2.

But with 8:15 to go in the middle frame, the Jets got an odd-man rush of their own. In fact, Scheifele finished a four-on-one rush with his 21st goal of the season to restore Winnipeg's lead.

It stayed that way until Matthews' blast in the final seconds, his 31st of the season, evened the score.

The Jets are now 4-1-0 in the front half of back-to-back games and have five of a possible six points on the road trip, which concludes Thursday night against the Boston Bruins.

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